Deposition of silica in sorghum root endodermis modifies the chemistry of associated lignin

Nerya Zexer, Sabrina Diehn, Rivka Elbaum*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Silica aggregates at the endodermis of sorghum roots. Aggregation follows a spotted pattern of locally deposited lignin at the inner tangential cell walls. Autofluorescence microscopy suggests that non-silicified (-Si) lignin spots are composed of two distinct concentric regions of varied composition. To highlight variations in lignin chemistry, we used Raman microspectroscopy to map the endodermal cell wall and silica aggregation sites in sorghum roots grown hydroponically with or without Si amendment. In +Si samples, the aggregate center was characterized by typical lignin monomer bands surrounded by lignin with a low level of polymerization. Farther from the spot, polysaccharide concentration increased and soluble silicic acid was detected in addition to silica bands. In -Si samples, the main band at the spot center was assigned to lignin radicals and highly polymerized lignin. Both +Si and -Si loci were enriched by aromatic carbonyls. We propose that at silica aggregation sites, carbonyl rich lignin monomers are locally exported to the apoplast. These monomers are radicalized and polymerized into short lignin polymers. In the presence of silicic acid, bonds typically involved in lignin extension, bind to silanols and nucleate silica aggregates near the monomer extrusion loci. This process inhibits further polymerization of lignin. In -Si samples, the monomers diffuse farther in the wall and crosslink with cell wall polymers, forming a ring of dense lignified cell wall around their export sites.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1370479
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 Zexer, Diehn and Elbaum.


  • ITCW
  • Raman microspectroscopy
  • lignin
  • root endodermis
  • silicic acid
  • silicon
  • sorghum


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